NEW YORK – Linda Perry is still trying to get used to being an artist again.
spending more than a decade comfortably in the background as the
uber-producer and songwriter behind hits for Pink, Christina Aguilera,
Gwen Stefani and others, she’s now fronting the duo Deep Dark Robot.
hadn’t made a video in 15 years, and she’s still warming up to the idea
of doing interviews. When booking the tour for her new band, she asked
for the smallest venues.
But the 45-year-old Perry is clearly relishing her second chance in front of the microphone.
want to be an artist in this. What happens next year, I don’t know, but
this year, I want to focus on it because I need a break from the
studio, I need to be outside,” Perry
said during a recent interview in a New York restaurant. “I need to be
talking to people. I’ve been cooped up for a very long time, and I’m a
Everything about Perry
screams rock star, from her tousled brunette hair to the tattoos that
adorn her body and even her face, to her blunt, occasionally coarse
talk. But she’s lived the rock-star life from the background as the
person behind songs like Aguilera’s “Beautiful” and Pink’s “Get the
She did have a taste of pop success as the
leader of the ’90s group 4 Non Blondes. But the group was a one-hit
wonder, never duplicating the success of “What’s Up,” and later
then flirted with a solo career. But she truly flourished when a young
singer named Alecia Moore sought her out. The result was her work on
Pink’s breakthrough album, “Missundaztood.”
“Alecia gave me like
my big break. I was more interested in producing, not songwriting …
but I write music. I mean, that’s just what I do,” she said.
Perry went on to write for Aguilera (“Beautiful”), Stefani (“What Are You Waiting For”) and Alicia Keys (“Superwoman”).
She also started Custard Records, which had its greatest success when it signed an unknown British singer named James Blunt.
The imprint released Blunt’s multiplatinum debut album, “Back to Bedlam,” which included the No. 1 hit “You’re Beautiful.”
“(He went) to pretty much every label with ‘Back to Bedlam,’ and every label passed on it,” Perry recalled.
innate music talent and instincts have made her one of the most popular
producers in pop music. But she grew tired of people coming to her for
a quick pop hit.
“Some of the artists are so controlled by their labels and management and are so lost that I can’t work with them,” said Perry, who insists on meeting every performer before she works with them.
But her unhappiness had more to do with Perry, not her work. She started to feel like she was going through the motions, and “that’s not me – that’s not my style.”
stopped doing production actually a little while ago,” she said. “I
hadn’t been happy with some of the stuff I was doing. I thought it
started flirting with the idea of working in a band – something she
never thought she’d do again. She came up with the name Deep Dark Robot
and knew it would be a great band name. Then she found a great partner:
Tony Tornay, drummer for Fatso Jetson, and one of Perry‘s close friends.
It took a while before any actual material came from their musical relationship.
started a million bands with my friends that have never actually done
anything … people get busy. She has her day job and she was busy
working with other people, and I have another band that I play in, and
I do photography as well,” Tornay explained.
The creative spark for Perry was love. She fell hard for a woman who wasn’t gay, but enjoyed her friendship. It was basically unrequited love, and Perry ended up with a broken heart.
“It was very brief, but it was like an impact, this person, and she ended up being a muse for the record,” Perry said. “So we called it ‘8 Songs About a Girl.”’
The record has a raw rock sound that is gritty and unpolished – not by design – but Perry loves the end product. Although she has a plush multimillion-dollar studio, it didn’t get much use for “8 Songs About a Girl.”
set up mics and we recorded. I didn’t go into producer mode, I just
made it sound OK,” she said. “The record started out to be demos …
but it was so good, we’re like, ‘there’s no way we’re going to rerecord
this; the demos are the album.”’
They’ve taken the same grass-roots approach to the entire project.
Perry said the videos were shot for $3,000, while the album cover was shot on an iPhone camera.
that we’ve done has come really naturally to us so far, and the second
that things get complicated, it just doesn’t feel right,” Tornay said.
album was released in March. They have already recorded material for a
covers CD and are planning other EPs. They’ve been on tour for the last
month with a full band, playing club dates, but Perry hopes to build their audience over the next year or so.
Which means those pop artists looking for the Linda Perry treatment will have to go elsewhere.
While she’s got a few side projects she’s still working on, Perry has basically closed up shop as a producer – for now.
“I’m focused on this – this is where I’m supposed to be,” Perry
said. “Something extremely over-the-top special would have to show up
to take my attention off this. … This is where my heart is.”